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Sheffield Community Land Trust Sheffield citizens invited to learn more about a new community-owned vision for the city centre

A free drop-in event this Saturday will showcase plans to establish the first community land trust in the city.

City centre the moor caffe nero cafe

Sheffield city centre has a lack of both affordable housing and community-owned space.

Rachel Rae Photography

Residents of Sheffield are being invited to an open meeting this Saturday to find out more about an innovative project that aims to model a new approach to land ownership, housing and development in the city centre.

Sheffield Community Land Trust (SCLT) are currently in the process of shortlisting potential buildings that could be brought into collective ownership, refurbished and used for the common good.

In other towns and cities, this model has not only provided desperately needed new housing but has also rejuvenated high streets and urban areas affected by skyrocketing rents and 'land banking' by big developers.

“We are currently in the early phase of a pilot project which will bring an underused city centre building into community ownership and develop this into low-carbon homes and spaces for community benefit,” James Harrington of SCLT told Now Then.

He said that the project would place "a particular emphasis on affordability, security of tenure, and supporting the transition to a more ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable future for Sheffield."

The open meeting takes place on a drop-in basis this Saturday (3 February) between 9am and 5pm at Union St cafe. Attendees will also have the chance to sign up as members of SCLT for a nominal fee, so that they can have their say in the future of the project.

The community land trust (CLT) model allows citizens of a particular place to buy and own their own buildings and land. The trust then acts as a long-term steward to the building, as opposed to the traditional models of development based around extraction and short-term profits.

In many of the world’s most expensive cities, like London, CLTs have been set up to offer housing to local residents at below market rates, preventing long-term members of the community from being priced out of their own neighbourhood.

Instagram Post for 240203 Event2

Rather than providing pockets of community-owned land, the CLT model has the potential to transform our urban environments by eventually bringing entire town centres under community control. In Scotland, members of the government-backed Community Land Scotland collectively own 500,000 acres of land and homes for 25,000 people.

In the seaside town of Hastings, a CLT established in 2016 bought up empty and dilapidated buildings in the town centre and transformed them into new co-working spaces, community facilities and high-quality commercial units for independent traders.

In Sheffield, SCLT have received funding from the South Yorkshire Mayor’s office for feasibility work into acquiring a building in the city centre for retrofit, with the aim of providing a mix of affordable housing and community space.

Harrington said that the project, which is hosted by architectural social enterprise Studio Polpo, was currently focused on “identifying a long-list of buildings” within or just outside the inner ring-road.

"Over the coming weeks we will be moving forward with the most feasible proposals and developing the detail, including working with the Confederation of Cooperative Housing to develop a financial model to evaluate these sites and how we would acquire and develop them as a community land trust."

He also urged anyone interested in the project to drop by anytime on Saturday to find out more, and to engage with the team.

"Attendees can expect to get a sense of the locations and types of building we are looking at, share their views and opinions on our project and their hopes for Sheffield city centre, have a cup of tea and meet our members, and generally find out more about SCLT and how you can support or get involved,” he said.

"Your input and insights at this time will help by informing how we develop our project. Or by becoming a member you can join and support us in making our project a reality."

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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